Sunday, January 23, 2011

Legal Drivers

Michal Korach

Driving age in Israel is 17 for a private vehicle and 16 for a motorized scooter.  In 2008, 3.36 million Israelis had a driver license, of whom 58% were male and 42% female.

The percentage of licensed drivers in a particular locality or city is clearly linked to its socioeconomic status.  The highest percentages of licensed drivers (among persons aged 18 or older) were recorded in Kokhav Ya’ir, Shoham, Tel Mond, Even Yehuda, Ra’anana, and Modi’in-Maccabim-Re’ut, all of which were in the 90-97% range.  (The list excludes localities with fewer than 10,000 residents.)

Conversely, the lowest rates of licensed drivers were found in the Arab localities, Hura, Kuseife, and Jisr az-Zarqa and in the Ultra-Orthodox localities Modi’in Illit, Bnei Brak and Beitar Illit, all of which were in the 23-36% range.  One must also keep in mind that the relatively low rates of licensed drivers among these two populations is a consequence of social and cultural attitudes and norms, as well as socioeconomic factors.

In Jerusalem, 54% of the adult population holds a driver’s license.  As can be seen in the diagram below, the percentage of licensed drivers in Jerusalem is below the rates found in the localities inhabiting Jerusalem's metropolitan region, to the exclusion of Ultra-Orthodox localities.

When the numbers are broken down according to license type, they reveal that the highest percentages of commercial driver license holders (for driving a truck) are found in Arab localities.  In Kuseife and Ar'ara, between 66% and 67% of licensed drivers had a commercial driver license, and in Rahat, Hura, Tel Sheva, and Jisr az-Zarqa, between 45% and 54% of licensed drivers had a commercial driver license.  The number of motorcycle or moped driver license holders was highest in Tel-Aviv-Yaffo at 25%, immediately followed by Eilat, with 24%.  The numbers were also high throughout metropolitan Tel-Aviv, ranging between 20 and 24 percent, in Giv’atayim, Ramat Gan, Azor, Yahud, Ramat Hasharon, and Kiryat Ono.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

The Gates of Jerusalem Welcome You

Aviel Yelinek

Jerusalem is naturally one of Israel’s central tourist attractions, and tourism is observably one of the most important growth engines in the city.  The mayor of Jerusalem has set a most ambitious goal of attracting 10 million tourists to Jerusalem a year. Several efforts are being carried out simultaneously in an attempt to meet this goal: the municipality’s tourism budget has been significantly increased, tourist services are being upgraded, permits were granted allowing the construction of thousands of new hotel rooms, a marketing and public relations program is being drafted, and the number of cultural, music and art events is being expanded.

The decade which is quickly coming to a close was uneven, to say the least, for Jerusalem’s tourism industry. The year 2000 brought a record-high number of tourists to Jerusalem, until the outbreak of the second intifada in September, 2000, after which the number of tourists visiting the city dropped dramatically.  The gradual improvement in the security situation during subsequent years and the eventual near elimination of terrorist attacks allowed tourism volumes to inch back up.  By 2008, tourism in Jerusalem had exceeded the previous record, set in 2000.  While numbers waned slightly in 2009, Jerusalem’s tourism scene bounced back in 2010.  During the first six months of 2010, some 650,000 guests spent the night at Jerusalem's many tourist hotels – 28% above 2009 figures.  The good news is that most of the increase in the number of visitors who stayed at a hotel was due to foreigners, the number of which increased by 40% compared with a modest 2% increase in the number of Israelis who stayed the night at one Jerusalem’s hotels.

The number of room nights sold in Jerusalem in 2010 also spiked, reaching 1,920,000 during the first six months of the year.  These figures demonstrate a 31% increase over the comparable time period in 2009.  The ratio of room nights sold to foreigners compared with those sold to domestic tourists was 86% to 14%.  Perhaps not surprisingly, the average number of nights foreigners spent at a hotel was almost double that of Israeli travelers, with 3.3 nights compared to 1.7.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Any apartments to let?

Inbal Doron

Many Israeli households live in a rental apartment and struggle to keep up with soaring rental prices.  In 2009, prices shot up in the rental apartment market, as compared to previous years.  So what do renters pay for their apartment in Jerusalem?  In 2009, the average monthly rent for a 2.5-3 room apartment in Jerusalem was 2,900 NIS – 21% higher than the national average for a comparable apartment (2,400 NIS), 70% higher than the average in Haifa (1,700 NIS), and 21% lower than the average in Tel-Aviv (3,500 NIS).  The price gap remains similar across apartment sizes between cities in Israel.  The average rent for a 3.5-4 room apartment in Jerusalem was 3,700 NIS, compared to a national average of 3,200 NIS, and an average of 2,300 NIS in Haifa and 4,900 NIS in Tel-Aviv.

The upsurge in the 2009 rental market was felt throughout Israel, without exception.  Still, Jerusalem saw the largest increase, which reached between 17-21% in 2009 alone, depending on apartment size.  The average increase in Israel as a whole ranged between 15-18%, and the increase in Tel Aviv was 14-18%.  Haifa saw a more modest price hike of 10-13% on average.  These low, two-digit percentage price hikes translate into hundreds of sheqels.  For example, a 3.5-4 room apartment in Jerusalem, which averaged a rent cost of 3,100 NIS in 2008, cost 3,700 NIS per month by 2009.

The price hike in the rental market coincided with the upsurge in the housing market.  These changes have had a negative effect on the number of homeowners in Israel.  According to the Israel Ministry of Construction and Housing, the percentage of homeowners in Israel dropped from 73% in 1995, to a low of 66% in 2008.  This, in turn, has increased the demand for rental apartments and, consequently, rent prices as well.